Since it was a warm weekend than normal, I decided to take advantage of it and hike up Bare Mountain in Granby/Amherst area in Massachusetts and do a SOTA Activation.
Elecraft KX3 Ready to go with Spare Batteries
Since this was a spur of moment thought, I didn’t have time to properly prepare my equipment. However usually when I come home from an activation, I take the time to repack my bag and make sure all the basics are included because I know I’ll be grabbing it with short notice. I could consider it my “Go-Kit” as it’s an entire HF station with antenna that fits into a small backpack.
Need More Batteries
For this trip I didn’t even charge the battery from the last activation. Since I’m using a 3 cell (3S) 2200mAh RC/ battery with each cell being 3.7v, The battery pack will be fully charged at around 11.1v to around 12.6v. The KX3 Folds back TX power from 10w to 5W when the voltage dips below 11. This does not give me much room to play with. I am able to do an activation at 10W without much issue. If the TX power folds back, it’s usually at the end of my activation so my last contacts would be at true QRP levels. I could purchase a LiPo or LiFePo4 battery that has the proper voltage but that could end up costing me quite a bit of money compared to the cheaper RC batteries used in Quadcoptors and similar. The other option is purchase a 4 cell battery which could gives a 14.8 to 16.8v. It’s a little too much for the KX3 but you could step down the voltage using a couple diodes inline until the voltage drops below a certain point. The downside to that is the diodes will heat up. I’ll stick with the 3 cell for now but I should buy more and alternate them. At $10 a battery, you really can’t complain.
Before the Hike
Even though it’s short notice, there is some preparation that is needed before you leave. Besides making sure you have everything and double checking, it’s strongly suggested that you submit an activation notice (alert) to SOTAwatch.org. Even more so if you’re a CW operator. That way people will expect you. You wouldn’t want to spend all this time hiking and setting up gear to make zero contacts. Since SOTA is gaining more popularity, it means there are more chasers and activators participating. There will always be someone listening out for you as long as you tell them when and where you’ll be. Cell/Data service at the summit is a huge advantage as you’re allowed to Self spot on the SOTA Cluster. CW ops have it even easier because if you send an alert through SOTAWatch, when you start calling CQ the skimmers will pickup your signal and automatically spot you on the SOTA Cluster. That’s pretty darn neat. I know people that have been involved with SOTA for a long time and they’ve told me stories of how they failed to make the minimum of 4 contacts. I have yet to have one of those activations and I hope it never will happen.
The hike up wasn’t bad and the use of crampons helped since there were icy spots in the snow. After some huffing and puffing I made it to the summit with some time to spare.However all the time was used tring to untangle my mess of the mini G5RV that I use. It wasn’t designed for portable use and it uses #14 THHN wire. I took along tent stakes but ended up tying off the ends to near-by trees because the ground was frozen. I “Secured” the mast using bungie cord to a tree branch. It held up quite well
Mini G5RV in a inverted V configuration. Mounted to a Jackite pole
Once everything was setup and checked, Out came the logbook and sent a spot over SOTAWatch.org. It didn’t take long for the traffic to come. There were times where I had pileups to work me which is real fun.
Operating conditions. Notice the lack of seat.
The following operators worked me from the summit, if you worked me and you either see your callsign wrong or not there, please contact me. I had a real hard time trying to write down calls correctly and It’s possible that I messed up your call. I try to check each contact against QRZ.com’s DB. It’s even better when the profile mentions SOTA as it makes me feel better the call is correct.
(20 METERS – Start 16:34Z)
- K1MAZ (SOTA Jerks)
- WA2USA/4 (In Florida)
- KK1W (SOTA Jerk)
(12 Meters – Start 16:55)
(15 Meters – Start 17:03)
- M6ARE ??
(40 Meters – Start 17:13)
- N2ICE ??
(10 Meters – Start 17:30)
(Contacts with other SOTA Summits)
- W7IMC (W7I/SR-138 Idaho)
- KI4SVM (W4C/WM-039) (NC QSO Party)
Over 45 contacts were made, I also chased some DX I heard while scanning around the bands and chasing other SOTA activations. I’m glad to make a couple Summit to Summit contacts which to me is more thrilling as we’re both on summits with less than ideal operating conditions.
There were a lot of other hikers up at the summit and some came over to talk and were amazed that I was contacting Spain and England considering what I had.
View from the other side of the Summit. You can see UMASS, Amherst and Hampshire college from this view
I could have stayed longer but Kneeling in the snow wasn’t helping me out. I need to find an easier way to be more comfortable during the winter activations. Thinking about using a kneeboard that I can attach my radio to that also has a clock. The hike down was a lot harder than the hike up. I kept sliding and had to use my antenna mast as a walking stick at times.
Notice someone made little snowmen along the trail
Besides having extra batteries, I think some kind of seat or something that would allow me operate more comfortable. I was either standing or kneeling down in the snow which was more damaging to me than the hike. It was extremely difficult to log contacts while holding the microphone.
Thanks for reading!